Fourth of July Church Vegan Barbecue

by Carol J. Adams

My spouse, Bruce, has been the Associate Pastor for Community Ministries at a church in Dallas for 30 years. When we first arrived we learned that the Fourth of July event hosted by the church’s senior activities group was “a must.” To us northerners it was more than strange that anyone would choose to be outside in 100° temperature on July 4. On top of it, and to my dismay, the event was centered on chicken.

Ten years into Bruce's ministry here the people who hosted the event had aged and were unable to host it any longer. For a few years, the event rotated between other elderly members, and then no one could host it. The event went dark for a couple of years. I said to Bruce, “If all they need is a backyard in which to have their celebration, we can do it!”

But there was the issue of the chicken. This needed to be addressed. So I began serving vegan drumsticks. I bought them from my local vegan Chinese restaurant. She stocked them in bags of 80. They are little pieces of seitan on a cane sugar stick. I would slather barbecue on half of them and olive oil on the other half, bake them and serve them. They were a huge success and a curiosity.

But the Chinese restaurant went out of business. So I decided to make my own barbecue. First I use frozen tofu. One year I used tofu, tempeh, and seitan in barbecue sauce. (It’s the barbecue sauce that really matters!)

Everyone adjusted to the change in the main course and the request to bring vegetables or fruit (and no meat). What I was preparing became a matter of interest.

This picture shows my most successful barbecue—barbecued unribs!

The author with her popular BBQ unribs! 

The author with her popular BBQ unribs! 

This recipe is a little labor intensive, but while preparing them I make a point to listen to an audiobook about US history. At church the week following the serving of these unribs, I saw some of the matriarchs of the church. One said, “When I was asked how the barbecue was, I reported I had the best ribs ever!”

A faster BBQ recipe uses jackfruit instead of seitan. You hardly need any time at all!

Vegan BBQ Jackfruit

Vegan BBQ Jackfruit

A barbecue is incomplete without macaroni and cheese, and I created the most luscious, richest, outrageous vegan mac and cheese recipe. I added a little kale just to prevent its complete descent to decadence.

Decadent Vegan Mac & Cheese

Decadent Vegan Mac & Cheese

One friend, a nonagenarian, and very proper Southerner, went back for thirds! You can find the recipe here.

Of course, some cole slaw is necessary.

Use a vegan mayonnaise and you don’t have to worry about the eggs in the mayonnaise going bad in the sun! (Veganism has so many side benefits.)

Finally, we always end with a Texas sheet cake.

If I mention ordering a cake, there are protests: this is the cake that must complete the bbq.

As people are finishing their meals, Bruce brings out his miniature cannon and sets it off. But that is another story. The vegan bbq has found its place in the hearts and stomachs of at least one Texas congregation. Why stop there?

Happy eaters! 

Happy eaters! 

Carol J. Adams is the author of numerous books including The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory, now in a Bloomsbury Revelations edition celebrating its 25th anniversary. She has written several books on living as a vegan, including Never Too Late to Go Vegan: The Over-50 Guide to Adopting and Thriving on a Vegan Diet (with Patti Breitman and Virginia Messina), Living Among Meat Eaters: The Vegetarian’s Survival Guide, and How to Eat Like a Vegetarian Even if You Never Want to Be One.

She is the author of Woman-Battering (1995) in Fortress Press’s Creative Pastoral Care and Counseling Series. With Marie Fortune, she edited Violence Against Women and Children: A Christian Theological Sourcebook (1995). She is the author of the training manual, Pastoral Care for Domestic Violence:  Case Studies for Clergy - for Christian Audiences - Training Manual (2007) published by the FaithTrust Institute. She has a Masters of Divinity from Yale University.